Thursday, December 17, 2015

Minnesota Quidditch Claims Midwest Regional Championship Title

By Cody Narveson and Lexi Bedell Regional Championships are usually scheduled in order to avoid the worst of winter’s weather. This year, teams at the Midwest Regional Championship were challenged not only by each other, but also by ferocious wind and a layer of slippery snow. Snowmen were built while games were pushed back, but the Midwest teams did not let the weather freeze their drive to win. At the end of Day Two, Mizzou Quidditch, Kansas Quidditch, Illinois State University Firebirds, and the championship winners, Minnesota Quidditch, won the bids to US Quidditch Cup 9.

Pool One: The Fight for First As Iowa State Quidditch was unable to make the trip to Macomb, Illinois, due to hazardous driving conditions, Pool One was left with just four competing teams: Minnesota Nice Quidditch Club (MNQC), Minnesota Quidditch (MNQ), Mizzou Quidditch, and Wichita State University. Three of those four teams tied with a 2-1 record, so the seeding was decided by point differential. Minnesota Quidditch ended up taking the pool with the highest point differential, and earning the second and third intra-pool seeds were MNQC and Mizzou Quidditch, respectively, with a mere 10 quaffle points separating them. In the second round of Day One the last round of games before the tournament was put on hold due to inclement weather MNQC got the best of Mizzou Quidditch and handed the squad its only loss of pool play. After starting the game down 50-0, MNQC tightened up its defense and focused on a drive-first offense in an attempt to combat the unyielding wind. Max Meier eventually pulled the snitch to give the win to MNQC 80*-50. This success did not continue, however, as Minnesota Nice fell later in the day to MNQ 60*-10. The post-snowstorm terrain left both teams unable to fully explore their offensive options, which made for a game loaded with botched passes and missed beats. However, MNQ was able to keep its composure and walk away with a snitch-range victory. One of the final games of the day saw Mizzou Quidditch claim a win over Minnesota Quidditch with a score of 90*-50. MNQ never seemed able to gain much offensive ground, and Mizzou's David Becker was by far the best beater on the field. Oddly enough, by defeating the team that would eventually win the Midwest Regional Championship, Mizzou Quidditch solidified itself as the third-best ranked team in its pool. Elite 8: Illinois State University (ISU) vs. TC Frost
This was the third time ISU played TC Frost this season, with ISU beating TC Frost both times previously. TC Frost, with a record of 3-1 (due to a forfeit by Loyola), came in at the fourth seed with Illinois State coming in just below at the fifth seed. Illinois State came into this game with some good momentum coming out of capping Southern Illinois, while TC Frost came in fresh with no previous games that day. Although TC Frost had a good chaser offense in the form of Luke Zak, and a decent beater game, Illinois State kept the momentum going. TC Frost did, however, manage to keep the game within snitch range, leaving an exciting seeker game from Zak, and Illinois State’s Jeff Siwek. Siwek caught for the win, sending Illinois State to the semifinals and TC Frost to the consolation bracket. Consolation Bracket:
As opposed to awarding bids to semifinalists of bracket play, this year USQ employed a consolation bracket for those teams that lost from Elite 8 on, giving teams a second chance at a bid. The consolation bracket proved to be the toughest fight for bids between the remaining teams. Bid favorites Marquette, Kansas, and Mizzou, along with “bubble teams” Minnesota Nice, TC Frost, and surprisingly tough competitor Northern Colorado, fought for the last two bids to go to Nationals with Minnesota and Illinois State. TC Frost and Minnesota Nice played the first round community team on community team, where TC Frost won 110*-60. Kansas then beat TC Frost to earn a bid 110*-10. Mizzou took the other bid against Marquette by a snitch catch, winning 130*-100.  The highlight games included Marquette vs. Northern Colorado and Mizzou vs. Marquette. Marquette vs. Northern Colorado
Northern Colorado brought its A-game to this match, not only keeping in snitch range with second-seed Marquette, but taking them to overtime. Marquette, although a great team, struggled in the second day of the tournament and seemed to just be exhausted. Having just finished a hard and long game against Mizzou, Marquette played a much weaker defense; this allowed Northern Colorado to put up points consistently, with three unanswered goals. Northern Colorado eventually caught to send the game into overtime with the score tied up at 120. Marquette brought back its quaffle game in overtime and scored two goals, while Northern Colorado focused on its seeker game. Northern Colorado’s seeker made a last attempt at the snitch and barely missed it at the five-minute whistle, leaving Marquette with an advance to the next round and a score of 140-120 Marquette. Mizzou vs. Marquette
Both these teams put up a good game against each other for the second time this tournament during this match, the match that would determine who would get the bid, and who would not. Mizzou came out the victor the first match, but eventually lost to Minnesota and landed in the consolation bracket. Mizzou was very strong toward the beginning of the season, while Marquette gained strength leading into the regional championship. Both teams were also favorites to earn bids to Nationals, making this game that much more intense. Between Mizzou’s Jacob Parker’s and Marquette’s Nathan Digmann’s quaffle game, and Mizzou’s David Becker’s and Marquette’s Matthew Fiebig’s beater game, the match was a consistent back and forth exchange of points. The game came down to 130*-100, with a snitch catch by Mizzou determining the winner. Both teams equally deserved to go to Nationals, but Mizzou had the edge with David Becker playing defensive seeker and was much less exhausted than Marquette. Semifinals: Illinois State University vs. Kansas University
First-seed KU, with a 4-0 (all but one game capped) pool-play record, coming right out of capping Northern Colorado in the Elite 8, was the favorite to win this game and eventually win the finals as well. However, Illinois State once again brought its momentum from the previous games that day and pulled off what was most likely the biggest upset of the tournament. What KU brought in offense with Matt Dwyer, Austin Pitts (injured midgame), and Adam Heald, Illinois State matched defensively utilizing slow-ball and the physicality of Siwek, Emerson Gagnon, and Jesse Carrasco. KU held the lead, but ISU kept within range. The game came down to seekers Jeff Siwek and Keir Rudolph. Beaters Colin Richards and Michael Mrowiec proved to be great defense on the seeker game for ISU, and Jeff Siwek caught for overtime with a score of 60*-60. Overtime did not last very long after brooms up, as once again the Siwek/Richards/Mrowiec seeker team proved triumphant, and Siwek pulled a clean catch for the win at 90*-60. Minnesota Quidditch vs. Mizzou Quidditch
The second showdown of the weekend between Minnesota Quidditch and Mizzou Quidditch came in the semifinals of the winnersbracket. With a bid to US Quidditch Cup 9 on the line, the atmosphere surrounding the game was much more tense and aggressive than MNQ and Mizzou’s pool-play matchup, and this was reflected in the gameplay. Both team’s benches spent the game consistently calling for fouls some imaginary, some legitimate. In the beating game, the aggression was led by Becker and Taylor Korte of Mizzou and Joe Reis and Hallie Schley of Minnesota. Bludger possession regularly went back and forth, with Minnesota holding onto its bludgers for a bit longer when within its zone defense. Mizzou’s cut-and-drive offense was orchestrated by the likes of Jacob Parker and Co-Captain Jacob Boyce. While effective at times, it was not quite able to match Minnesota’s offense, which found success when chasers Cole Wensman and Peter Nieman were able to receive the quaffle near and behind Mizzou’s hoops. While Minnesota held a 20-point lead over Mizzou, Reis made a successful grab on snitch George Williams, who had a fabulous tournament while donning the yellow shorts. With the 120*-70 win, Minnesota Quidditch was set to play for its first-ever regional championship; with the loss, Mizzou Quidditch was in line to play Marquette University Quidditch for the second time of the day this time for a bid to US Quidditch Cup 9. Qualifying Final: Mizzou Quidditch vs. Marquette University Quidditch
In a showdown that was remarkably well-fought and unexpectedly penalty-free, Mizzou Quidditch beat out Marquette University Quidditch for a trip to US Quidditch Cup 9. The match’s early momentum greatly favored Marquette, with the team’s ball movement and beater play taking over. As the game progressed, however, more and more of Marquette’s offensive drives led to dropped passes and lost possessions, while Mizzou’s offense made effective use of offensive beating paired with mid-range shots. With the game tied at 100-100, Mizzou made the snitch pull about a minute after seekers were released. The grab meant a trip to US Quidditch Cup 9 for Mizzou Quidditch and a third consecutive year of not attending the year’s biggest tournament for Marquette University Quidditch. Championship: Minnesota Quidditch vs. Illinois State University Firebirds
The final of the Midwest Regional Championship did not include the resurging Marquette University Quidditch, the preseason favorite Mizzou Quidditch, or the perennial regional favorite Kansas Quidditch. The championship game pitted Minnesota Quidditch a program that peaked at World Cup V but has since maintained a steady level of quidditch relevancy against the Illinois State University Firebirds, who have been noticeably building off their solid showing at World Cup 8. Though early sluggish offenses led spectators to believe the championship would be a low-scoring, snitch-range affair, Minnesota’s quaffle players eventually began to click and find each other open near Illinois State’s hoops. As its quaffle game picked up, Minnesota also started to gain a clear edge over ISU’s beaters. Illinois State’s biggest beating threat was Colin Richards, but he had little evident support while opposing MNQ’s deep beating bench. Minnesota led Illinois State 70-20 by the time the seekers were released, though Illinois State was able to gain some ground with the snitch on pitch. This time, it was Wensman who caught snitch George Williams to give Minnesota Quidditch the win and the regional title, with a final score of 110*-40. This tournament was full of surprises some of which included the harsh playing conditions but several teams rose unexpectedly to the top. Although Marquette made it to the Elite 8, it did not, as expected, get a bid to Quidditch Cup 9. It was instead Illinois State who challenged Minnesota after squeaking past TC Frost and Kansas in two very close games. Minnesota showcased a strong offense and deep beater talent in order to claim its first regional title. The four teams who received bids Illinois State, Minnesota, Mizzou, and Kansas will have to continue to work hard in order to be in shape for Quidditch Cup 9 later in the season, but this tournament was a great turning point for a lot of up-and-coming teams looking to qualify next year.

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